Preventing offending: getting it right for children and young people

Our Youth Justice strategy for Scotland, for 2015 to 2020.

Developing Capacity and Improvement

There will be a strategic focus on:

  • Supporting workforce development and encouraging a culture of continuous learning and improvement
  • Improving systems and making best use of performance information nationally and locally

Developing capacity and supporting continuous improvement is a key strategic priority both in terms of developing and sustaining a workforce which comprises education, health and justice professionals in statutory and non-statutory roles and in terms of the practices and systems that are used by partners as part of GIRFEC and the WSA.

Improvements which build on knowledge and information from practice, research, policy and those with lived experience are likely to be more successful than those not. There is a need for partners to learn from knowledge generated within their own organisations and elsewhere and to apply this knowledge systematically to improve practice and outcomes.

Learning from a combination of self-evaluation, performance management data, local, national and international good practice, research evidence, practitioner knowledge, and the views and experiences of children and young people, will be critical to developing capacity and ensuring continuous improvement.

Supporting workforce development

Preventing offending and providing the right support and interventions for children and young people involved in offending can involve a wide range of partners and requires committed, high-quality leadership.

Recruiting, retaining, and developing the required workforce is vital to deliver on better outcomes for young people involved in offending. There are particular issues to consider in respect of the 2014 Act, including the role of Named Persons and ensuring that the practice guidance includes children and young people who offend. This is fundamental along with the principles of community focussed services that meet the needs of young people involved in offending behaviour.

A refreshed suite of national practice guidance was published by the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice in June 2015 [24] .

Further, we also need to better support the sharing of knowledge and skills across geographical and professional boundaries to maximise the ability of the whole workforce to understand this complex area.

We will:

  • Support workforce development linked to implementation of the 2014 Act
  • Build a more collaborative approach to enhance training and workforce development opportunities founded on common core skills
  • Develop appropriate forums for youth justice practitioners, policy makers and others to share knowledge and good practice
  • Build the confidence of youth justice practitioners in their skills and abilities to support our children and young people
  • Refresh training for Children's Panel Members taking account of the 2014 Act
  • Develop leadership development opportunities at all levels but particularly for front line managers

Improving systems

The skills and knowledge of those working with young people who offend is crucial to the continuing progress in preventing offending. To enable the targeting of skills, knowledge and resources in the right areas we need to use evidence of trends, patterns and volume of offending and support partners to use this to learn, reflect and improve. We know for example that overall offending is down and less young people are involved in offending, but sexual offences are increasing.

The capacity of the systems we have available to developing a proportionate, timely approach, focussed on the wellbeing of children and young people involved in offending, remains a challenge. Appreciation of risks presented and the potential long term costs of failing to intervene appropriately at the right time is a key issue, in particular in relation to children and young people with complex needs. This challenge is not solely financial but is about the commitment of the constituent parts of the system to the ethos of Kilbrandon and the implementation of the 2014 Act.

To assist in enabling the appropriate targeting of resources we need to use evidence. There are issues in relation to the availability of reliable, consistent statistical data on young people who offend, partly because of the different systems used. We need to improve systems of information capture to support improvement including national information on EEI and diversion. Collaboration with Police Scotland on the Vulnerable Persons Database and management of information on youth engagement will be a priority.

We will:

  • Improve systems of information capture to support improvement including national information on EEI and diversion
  • Strengthen the evidence base about the needs of young people at risk of or involved in offending behaviour and complexity
  • Ensure that good practice and evidence is shared and that youth justice practice and policy is informed by the best knowledge and evidence
  • Develop a shared dataset and performance framework to monitor trends and assist in targeting of resources, workforce development and practice


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